High School principals in the Northern Region's Gunston District are scheduled to discuss at a meeting next Wednesday proposals that would schedule girls basketball games as preliminaries to boys games next season.
The proposals by girls team coaches in the district have touched off reaction from coaches for boys teams.
One proposed change involves scheduling girls and boys varsity teams at the same site with girls playing at 6 p.m. and boys at 8 p.m. The other possible change involves scheduling varsity and junior varsity games at the same site during the sme day with JV girls starting at approximately 3 p.m., followed by JV boys at 5 p.m., varsity girls at 7 p.m. and varsity boys at 9 p.m.
In the past, boys and girls teams have either played at separate sites or on different days.
Girls team coaches generally favor the chance to play preliminary to the boys game since boys historically have drawn larger crowds than girls in the area. "I'm hoping for it because it will give us more exposure" says Steve Gutekunst, coach of Edison High School's state champion girls team.
Boys team coaches generally oppose the proposed schedule changes. They argue that the proposals, if enacted, would split their JV and varsity programs since the JV would either play at a site away from the varsity or play several hours before the varsity.
"I want my JV coach on the bench with me," says Groveton boys coach William Whalen. "He's my assistant and he can often give a detached, objective view of things during an intense game."
"I like for parents of kids on the JV to see my varsity play," says Tom Wriston, Edison's boys coach. "That's the level of the program they hope their kids are moving up to. But that point will be lost if they change the scheduling."
Boys team coaches are also upset about the way they found out about the proposed changes. "We were at our meeting when someone said they'd heard about it," Whalen says. "Not one of six varsity basketball coaches had actually been contacted about the proposal. No athetic directors had been in touch with the boys coaches when the proposals was made.
"I went to my principal (Don Ford) to discuss it and I gave him a copy of our counterproposals. What he and the other principals do is up to them now."
Whalen and other boys team coaches fear that changing the schedule will discourage JV coaches since they rely on varsity contacts to further their own coaching experiences. Also, many JV coaches come from intermediate schools, according to Whalen, which dismiss later than high schools, making it difficult for the JV coaches to arrive at game sites earlier in the day.
The proposals by girls coaches come at a time when girls basketball is commanding attention locally. Marshall, Robinson and Edison High Schools, respectively, have won the last three state championships. Several local girls have received full or partial college basketball scholarships over the past two years.
Girls team coaches recently won the right to schedule 18 regular season regional games, the same number as the boys. That move is expected to result in equalizing supplemental pay for girls and boys team coaches. Currently, girls team coaches receive a $990 supplement and boys team coaches receive $1,400.
"Girls teams have come on so fast in such a few years these changes have to be expected," Gutekunst said. "With a really good girls team, having them play before the boys could be financially better for everyone. By the end of our wild season we were drawing 1,500 people on our own."
Whalen sees the proposals differently, calling them "an attempt by girls teams to push their way into the boys prime time and the boys gate and to take advantage of the boys draw.
"I've already proposed that if they agree to play all the games in the same day, I want my varsity to follow our boys JV. That will keep my program together. Let the girls play the final game of the night and see how many people stick around to watch."
Lee High School Athletic Director Jim England experimented last season by scheduling four games in one day and felt the results were "positive."
"I think it brings the boys and girls programs closer together," England said. "The kids can't just play and go home. They sit in the stands and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] with one another and with their opponents. Those are very positive spinoffs from that kind of scheduling."